Yesterday 9 years have passed since my husband was almost taken away from me twice and a bomb literally blew apart life as we all knew it. I didn’t know quite how I was going to write about this as no one wants to read something depressing.
I don’t want to focus on the loss, but life as we go forward.
I am not going to lie. As a caregiver, I have posted some really raw posts in the past. I did not want to mince words as I know other caregivers that come after me need to see something they can relate to as they start the journey of healing with their veterans.
Ambiguous loss is ambiguous loss after all. Some days will come up and make you feel things you have thought you have safely crammed into the vault of your mind, never to come back up. It is ok to sit there and feel, but don’t camp out there for too long.
Establishing your new identity after you leave your career is tough. I had a lot of struggles with this for a lot of reasons, I will elaborate more on that in a different post.
Instead of telling people I am my husband’s caregiver, I tell them I am his trophy wife as it’s funnier and its less depressing than trying to explain to civilians that don’t understand TBI or complex war injuries why exactly you are his caregiver.
One of the most important things I learned early is to look daily at each positive thing you can see. Our brains focus on pain as the brain’s primary role is to make us survive. When you continually look at the negative that is all you will see. I kept a journal on progress I saw with each doctor visit and on tough days, I would look at it and would see progress, even if on a small scale.
Let go of trying to run everything. You can’t control disease, you can’t make missing legs, brain cells or blood chemistry be magically fixed. You can’t make your veteran try the latest and greatest therapy, surgical procedure or pain management notion if he doesn’t want to do it. I insist on him keeping his autonomy. I am his spouse, not his mother.
What you can do is fix you. Learn how to be a healthier caregiver. Get counseling ASAP, get your health screened and monitor your moods. Caring for people with invisible wounds of war can be very emotionally draining at times.
Charge your batteries and plan something to nourish your soul. I just did inventory on myself and noticed I haven’t taken a dance class in a few years so I need to research and find one that works with my schedule. I also haven’t written in a while.
Laugh as much as you can. Thank your lucky stars that you have your true love. My husband told me to leave him for a younger, healthier man while he was inpatient at Brooke Army Medical Center. I told him after 15 years of marriage (in 2009), I had him perfectly trained and I was never walking away.
Reconcile your life goals. What you thought would happen while you were a cheese eating high school kid is not going to be what reality serves you, ever!
No one dreams about leaving all of their hopes and dreams and professions behind to care for their spouses or family members.
Caregiving does not have to be your end all, be all.
Life may not be what I envisioned when I was starving and putting myself through college to be a Journalist, however I am still making an impact.
Learn new stuff. Do not stagnate. My husband, even with a moderate brain injury with the help of the WWP’s Independence Program has learned dark room film development and takes black and white pictures. He is really good. Check out his stuff, https://www.instagram.com/toddplybon/
I have learned that physically and mentally I can do whatever I put my mind to. I am unstoppable. I have fought the VA for almost 9 years for one thing or another. Connor MacGregor has nothing on this scrappy Irish gal. I have lost 120lbs and got healthy so our son wouldn’t ever have to caregive for both his his father and I.
Date each other. When someone goes through a brain injury or even suffers from PTSD and other mood disorders and they are still able to communicate and engage with you, you need to engage each other as partners.
Take off the caregiver hat a bit and learn how to effectively communicate with each other as this really changes.
Laugh. Laugh and laugh more. The darker the memes, the more we laugh. Watch comedy shows. Pull your veteran away from the news and put on something dumb and cheesy like Weekend at Bernie’s. Put on the stupidest, silliest show and don’t relent. Focus on fun.
Plan fun. That is right. Besides the 15 medical appointments you plot in two weeks, plan a fun day. I love dressing up randomly when I take Todd to the doctor as he wonders if we don’t have something else planned that isn’t in the calendar. I tell him it’s for him since he makes the most handsome arm candy. The handsome smile that results in him showing his dimples makes it worth it every time.
Todd lost his friends the day we both lost life as we know it. The best way you can honor the loss of your friends is to life the best and happiest life you can in their honor.